If we were to write down all the things we want our students to sense in our classrooms and rehearsal halls, I think happiness would certainly be on that incredibly long list. But have you ever considered the notion of happiness? I mean really thought about what it is. In researching the topic, it turns out that it may be as simple as it is complicated.  Arthur C. Brooks teaches about happiness at Harvard University and is a renowned expert on the topic. He wrote, “When you teach happiness, like I do, one of the biggest questions that people have initially: What is it? I mean, we all think we know what happiness is until you think about it. A lot of people assume that happiness is a feeling. A better definition of happiness is: It’s like a meal with three macronutrients. Just as a meal has macronutrients—or protein, carbohydrates, and fat—happiness is a feast with three macronutrients, and they are: enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose.”

Isn’t that fascinating? That feeling we all know can seemingly be distilled down to those three parts. In our rehearsals, we can focus on making sure we provide students enjoyable moments through the beautiful sounds being made or heard, through their interactions with other students, and through our actions. We can foster their sense of satisfaction with our positive and encouraging words, constructive criticism, and by noticing their small steps of accomplishment along the way. And we can continually help them find a sense of purpose as they pursue their study of music. As I said, it might be as simple as it is complicated. The topic is obviously incredibly complicated and multi-faceted. But maybe thinking in terms of those three simple factors might help us work toward helping each of our students find happiness in their musical studies every day.

Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
KHS America

About the Author

Dr. Boonshaft, Director of Education for KHS America, is the author of the critically acclaimed best-selling books Teaching Music with Passion, Teaching Music with Purpose, and Teaching Music with Promise. He was honored by the National Association for Music Education and Music For All as the first recipient of the “George M. Parks Award for Leadership in Music Education.” Dr. Boonshaft was selected for the Center for Scholarly Research and Academic Excellence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, where he is Professor Emeritus of Music.